Category Archives: 2016

Edward’s End of the Day Prayer

IMG_2536Every night I say the same prayer with Edward as I tuck him in to bed. While he hasn’t memorized all of the words yet, he does say the word ‘you’ with me each time I say it;

“The Lord bless you (YOU) and keep you (YOU), the Lord make his face shine on you (YOU) and be gracious to you (YOU); the Lord turn his face toward you (YOU), and give you (YOU) peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

(I can see his pursed lips now.)

Reading this passage in my devotions this morning, the verse that follows this blessing struck me. Referencing the priests who were commanded by God to say these words to his people, the writer writes; “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:27

Every night I put God’s name on my son. And every night he puts God’s name on me.

Such a beautiful blessing.

God Working Though Hitler’s Legacy?

A Christmas tree stands in front of the Brandenburg Gate which is illuminated in the colors of the German flag in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, the day after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Responding to the recent terrorist attack in Berlin, a local newspaper ran a front-page photograph of a Christmas tree standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the image inscribed with three timely and heartening words, “Be not afraid” Luke 2:10, ASV

Many in Europe are afraid right now. With terror attacks playing out in more and more cities, with xenophobia and racism on the rise, and centrist politicians being booted from office in several recent elections, many are wondering if Europe can even hold it together.

Some are losing hope.

In a faith saturated Globe and Mail editorial this morning, Timothy Garton Ash wrote of how he still has hope, and how he bases that hope on the strength of German society; Europe’s economic, geographic and social center.

“The deeper challenge is whether German society has the strength to live up to the liberal ideal that [Chancellor] Merkel evoked in her initial, restrained and dignified remarks [to the terrorist act], defending “the life that we want to live in Germany: free, together and open.”, Garton Ash writes.

And then he states three reasons why he thinks the liberal ideals of Germany will hold. First, a strong economy leaves a lot of economic room for the integration of the other. Second, a responsible local press protects the populace from unmerited fear as it refuses to give voice to enflamed rhetoric. And third, the memory of Germany’s painful World War II history is now its greatest strength.

“And that brings us to probably the most important reason [for hope] of all: Adolf Hitler. Precisely because Germany once had the diabolic epitome of populist xenophobia, it is now most resistant to it. Pray to God that taboo holds, for if it doesn’t, heaven help us all.”

Pray to God indeed.

As Christians we often talk about how God transforms broken circumstances for good. To now see this truth (hopefully) playing out, over a 70 year swath of European history, is deeply compelling. How beautiful that God would use one of the most heinous chapters of human history to restrain and compel a people to do the right thing now, to choose to not live in fear, to choose to continue to be “free, together and open”.

Talk about re-deeming a nation, and making the crooked straight, and shining a light in the darkness!

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11, ASV

On that first Christmas Eve, heaven and earth came together to proclaim the most hopeful news imaginable – that God sees our plight and that he has come to save us; God is with us and we are not alone.

Thankfully, the God who makes all thing new isn’t done with his world.

Brandenburg image – Daily Mail

Two Weddings and a Funeral

img_7944“Where would we be if you two didn’t connect last year?”

(words spoken to me in a hospital emergency room this morning, re: my connection with her husband, by a woman who is dying of cancer)

I asked myself the same question two days ago; after praying with them in their Glenbrook living room, opening my tear filled eyes to see  the two of them holding hands, weeping.

They don’t go to church. But God comes to them.

It was probably 18 months ago when I first met Ray. I was taking macro photos of tree buds in his neighbor’s front yard and he thought I was some kind of creep. “I’m taking pictures for a sermon this weekend”, I said. He laughed and I quickly moved on.

Several months later he called out to me as I walked by his house, and told me about his wife’s cancer diagnosis. “If you could pray…”

A month or so after that I saw his wife tending her front garden and introduced myself. We talked a bit about her upcoming radiation treatments. And about church. She’d gone once, with her sister when they were 7 and 8. The Sunday school kids laughed at them because they didn’t know the bible. “Never been back since.”

A few months later, both she and her husband were sitting on their front patio. I walked up and asked how things were. “Not good.” So I sat down for a few minutes to talk. Before leaving I asked if I could say a prayer. “Yes…  please.”

Three months ago, it was just Ray sitting on their patio. She was in the hospital.

“Could you keep her in your prayers?”

“I am…  I pray for you two every time I walk by your house, five times a week.”

Three weeks later I learned that the cancer was terminal. We met and talked and prayed some more. Big hugs to end that visit. “I don’t trust people”, he said. “But I trust you”.

This Wednesday night I opened our church leadership team meeting by telling the story of my providential connection with this couple. “Who would be there if I wasn’t?” Driving home from that meeting I saw an ambulance parked in front of Ray’s house, lights flashing. “They’re taking her to the hospital… she’s in so much pain”.  As the EMS workers were helping her to the ambulance, she stopped and gave me a 10 second hug.

Seeing her this morning I could tell by the color of her skin that death was near. I asked if it would be okay if I read something from the bible. “Yes… please do.” I read Psalm 23.

“That’s a good one,” the woman whispered.

Then we prayed – she, her husband, their daughter and I. After the prayer they asked if I could formally marry them, tomorrow morning, in that hospital room. They’ve been living common-law for 28 years, and wanted to “make it right”. They’re daughter then jumped in and said that she wanted to push her wedding date up to tomorrow morning as well.

So… tomorrow morning I’m doing two weddings in the emergency room of the Rockyview hospital… and then, soon after I’m thinking, I’ll be doing a funeral.





When God uses a Pastor with Advanced Parkinsons to get you back to work

fullsizerender-9Two weeks ago, while on leave from work, I dropped in on a former mentor – Pastor Mike Reitsma. I was out for a walk in my old neighborhood and ended up walking by the long term care institution where Mike now lived (with his advanced Parkinsons).

“I should visit.”

Looking into his darkened room I couldn’t tell if he was there. All I saw were some rumpled blankets on his bed… until I realized they were him.

“He’s asleep. I’ll come back later.”

But then a staff member came into the room and woke him up, telling him he had a guest.

“Well, well, well…” Mike said, regaining consciousness. He had a huge smile on his face and immediately knew who I was. More than that, for our entire visit, he knew who he was; as a pastor, leader, visionary and mentor. Which was encouraging given what I’d heard about the ongoing ravages of Parkinsons on his life. There are good days and bad.

But on this day, he was good! For 45 minutes he mentored me, corrected me, joked around with me, shared his frustrations with me, pondered the future of the church with me, and prayed for me. Our time together was such a gift (for both of us). I could tell that Mike needed to lead and care for someone, and I needed to be led and cared for. It was beautiful.

Yes there were times when the Parkinsons derailed the conversation, but even then there was beauty. At one down point Mike tried to open a devotional he’d been reading, wanting to point me to a lesson he’d learned. I could tell that his focus was lost as he could barely page through the book (his hands were shaking badly). Eventually he just randomly ended up on a page and pointed and slowly said, “This is what keeps me going.” At that moment I don’t think he had any idea what he was pointing to;

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I read the passage back to him. Even though Mike had just told me that he can’t do “anything” any more, he could, and was doing something…. something that was so timely and important for both of us.

After telling him about my stress leave, he then turned to me and leaned in. I could feel the strength of his love. Then he said, “You can take a break… that’s okay. But you can’t stop. You can’t do nothing. You need to keep going. You need to do something!”

Coming from a friend who wants nothing more than to do something himself, and can’t; his words were cutting. In his weakness Mike reminded me that I still have strength in me, and passion, and capacity and ability, and I need to steward these gifts well. God isn’t done with his call on my life (even as he’s not done with Mike’s).


How Would Jesus Respond to Trump?


Seems to me (as someone who is very politically left of Donald Trump, and can’t believe what’s happened) that the only way forward in this very fractured time is for the offended part of me to respond in a selfless, humble, loving, peace-making, forgiving, and very counter-intuitive way. Sure I can be afraid, judge, double down, condemn, blame, ridicule, and strike back, or I can take a different path and take these very unsettling words of Jesus to heart;

Do unto Donald Trump as you would have him do unto you (Matthew 7:12)

Love Donald Trump as you love yourself (Matthew 19:19)

If you hold anything against Donald Trump, forgive him (Mark 11:25)

Forgive him up to 77 times if necessary (Matthew 18:21)

Because if you forgive Donald Trump, God will forgive you (Matthew 6:14-15)

Bless Donald Trump if he has cursed you (Luke 6:28)

Pray for Donald Trump if he has mistreated you (Luke 6:28)

Love Donald Trump and do good to him (Luke 6:35)

Don’t condemn Donald Trump or you will be condemned (Luke 6:37)

Only if you’re perfect, throw the first stone at Donald Trump (John 8:7)

I know this sounds incredibly naïve, but I really do believe that the only cure for fear is love (1 John 4:18). When I love, respect and honor the ‘other’ in this kind of insanely gracious way, I create the best (and perhaps only) circumstance possible for that love to take root and grow.

“The practice of love is the most powerful antidote to the politics of domination” Bell Hooks, American Feminist and Social Activist

When the Blue Jays’ Kelly Gruber schools you on pride…


I should have seen it coming… starting a year ago, when I first preached on the Blue Jays, and those CTV and CBC news crews came to church and filmed the sermon and did stories that ended up gaining media traction here in Canada, and then a month ago, when Rogers Communications discovered those stories and asked me to do an interview for a big marketing campaign they were rolling out, and then two weeks ago, when, after we did that interview, they gave me two all-expense paid trips to Toronto to see a game in the President’s Suite (with all the fixings), and then at that game when I was told that an excerpt from the interview would play on the Jumbotron mid-second inning (like my head isn’t already big enough?).

I should have seen it coming.

And it came right after that second inning cranial stretch, as I walked over to legendary Jays’ third baseman Kelly Gruber for a selfie. They say that pride hides in a blind spot, and that you never see the fall until it comes.

So there I am shaking Kelly’s hand and pulling out my phone. When I asked if it would be okay to take a selfie, he said ‘No!’… and then he kind of chided me (and all those fans who are so selfie-oriented) for always wanting to see our faces on our screens. Before he could finish what he was saying I stepped back (my pride flaring) and thought, ‘Nice guy… who needs a picture with him?’.  Then I said, “Hey Kelly… don’t worry about it!” (with exactly the kind of tone you’d imagine me using), and began to walk away.

Then Kelly grabbed me by the arm and said, “No, no, no, no, no…  you don’t get to do that… now you’re reacting out of your pride!”  Then he went on to finish what he was saying, telling me how his whole life is filled with people who want to take selfies, and how he doesn’t want to be looking at his own face, and hearing his own voice, all the time, and how he prefers to pass the phone to a bystander to take the photo to avoid all of that unnecessary self-focus.

I can’t tell you how humbling that moment was.

Here you have a bonafide legend of the game schooling you on pride. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever learn. There I was, two minutes earlier, phone in hand, ready to capture a picture or my mug on the Jumbotron.

Kelly was so very gracious as we spoke at length later that evening, talking about our insecurities and our fears of performing before others. I suppose this battle with pride is a part of every human journey.

For me this moment was a perfectly timed parable of selflessness; tucked right  in the middle of one of the most heady nights of my life.






Preaching Zootopia


This Sunday I’m preaching on Disney’s newest film Zootopia. It’s a perfect animated parable for our times (with all of the racism, xenophobia, and stereotyping that seems to be spinning out of control). Watch the film for homework if you get a chance.